Thomism and Epistemology

I’m a Thomist, but I’m technically a specialist in analytic epistemology.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find people who give a Thomist epistemology.  I’ve struggled to find anything particularly helpful.  Etienne Gilson says some interesting things about modern epistemology and its roots in the Cartesian doubt.  He rightly points out that Thomas Aquinas doesn’t think of skepticism as a live option.  But he also thinks that Thomas Aquinas purposely distances himself from epistemology.

But there has to be a Thomist epistemology.  A Thomist epistemology needn’t take skepticism seriously.  There are all sorts of respectable epistemologies that don’t take skepticism to be a live option.

But there’s also a nearly irresistable urge when we take this line to construe Thomas as an externalist.  I also think that this is problematic.

So how do we proceed in trying to figure out what Thomas’s epistemology is so that we can subject it to critical scrutiny?  I’m not sure what the answer is.  We need to look at the places where knowledge comes up in the discussion of other topics.  We need to look where the knowledge of God comes up.  We need to look where Aquinas talks about the sciences and their nature.  We need to look at where Aquinas talks about how we know God.  We need to look at his theory of cognition.

In the coming years, I would like to engage in a project of searching out some of the main places where Aquinas discusses knowledge so that I can settle once and for all what Aquinas thinks about the nature of knowledge and justification.

Peace be with you.


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